Chest cramping?

Hi everyone,

I just had my ICD implanted a week and a half ago, on May 13. In general, I have been doing really well. The site itself aches a little, but the pain of the first couple of days is mostly gone, and when I had my stitches out the nurse said the incision was healing very well.

My question is about something that has happened twice now, once on the way home from the hospital the day after the surgery, and once at 4am this morning. I get terrible, shooting chest cramps, which make it hard to take full breaths because any movement of the chest is so painful. I had this the day after the surgery, in the car on the way home. I woke up again this morning at 4am with it, and the pain was so bad I threw up. My Mom heard me, and came into my room and rubbed my neck and shoulders for a bit, which helped. I took 2 Advil, and after a while the pain eased and I went back to sleep at around 6am.

The strange thing is that the pain isn't actually around the ICD site, so I don't even know if it's related to the surgery. This morning, the pain was actually over on my right side and in my right shoulder.

What it feels like is a really bad swimmer's cramp, like you would usually get in your abdomen. I'm not sure what's causing this, or if it even has anything to do with the ICD. Has anyone experienced this before?

Thanks in advance for the help.


Thanks Smitty

by HelenB - 2008-05-25 01:05:51

Thanks for the advice. I am going to see my family doctor (who is also my uncle, which makes it convenient!). I also have rheumatoid arthritis, which can make me more likely to get pleurisy, from what I understand.

Until then, I'm keeping the pain down with anti-inflammatories. I am feeling much better right now, but I'm still going to go and get myself checked out. Thanks again.



by HelenB - 2008-05-25 12:05:04

I've just been reading a bit about pleurisy. It's an inflammation of the pleurae, which I gather is a layer of tissue across the chest wall. The Mayo Clinic website says it can develop as a complication of heart surgery o any kind of chest trauma, and my symptoms seem to fit exactly. It also says pleurisy is not dangerous and usually clears itself up in a few weeks.

I'm going to talk to my doctor about it but this sounds like it could be what's going on. The pain is still there this morning, although it isn't as bad. I just want to take pain pills and sleep!

Chest Pain

by SMITTY - 2008-05-25 12:05:50

Hello Helen,

I agree the pain you have is probably not caused by your pacemaker/ICD. And pleurisy does sound like a reasonable guess, but angina, pneumonia or heart attack can also cause severe chest pain like that you describe.

I had a heart attack in '82, followed by bypass surgery. During the following 26 years I have had attacks of severe chest pain from various causes. So my wife and I follow a simple rule. If I have chest pain above my belt and below my ears that we cannot identify with certainty, she gets medical help for me. Sometimes that just means a call to the doctor's office and a few times it has meant a fast trip to the E.R..

My point is pleurisy can be one of the most debilitating pains any of us will ever experience. However, missing our guess on the cause of that pain can be disastrous. So, talk to your doctor while you can still talk.

Good luck,



by joy1 - 2008-05-26 08:05:34

Hi Helen,

Just a thought, though I would recommend checking in with your doctor to be safe but if they tell you there is nothing wrong, it may be true. If you have recently experienced cardioversioin with paddles or even when they did the setting of your ICD when they placed it; it may have created a response that the doctors don't talk about because why...I don't know. Anyway this is what it is.

We have what I call dark dreams. Even though we are unconscious by natural causes or drug induced, our bodies remember what has happened to it. Those memories generally show up during sleep when the brain is more relaxed.

There is a yahoo group specifically geared for people with ICDs. It's not as active as this group but it has good information about what ICD people experience because it's definitely different than people with only PMs. The address is:

Good luck Helen,

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It may be the first time we've felt a normal heart rhythm in a long time, so of course it seems too fast and too strong.